Davinci Virtual Blog



Teenage Bee Entrepreneur Offers Inspiration

As an entrepreneur myself, I understand the power of testimony. So when I see a fellow entrepreneur find success, it’s inspiring.

I was reading about an unlikely entrepreneur this morning whose story I’d like to share. His name is Henry Miller and he’s only 14 years old.

The story begins when Miller visited The Georgia Sea Turtle Center during summer break. Like lots of kids his age, Miller had fun, took pictures and learned sea turtles don't lay eggs until they're 30 or 35. For most teens that would have been the end of it, but not for Miller. It seems this teenager is a natural born entrepreneur and activist.

Indeed, Miller has a track record for launching entrepreneurial ventures that he uses to support his pet causes. For example, when Miller was just 11 years old he learned about Colony Collapse Disorder and started his own business donating part to The Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees. He reminds, “You know we'll only last seven years once bees are gone.”

Three years after launching  his first venture, Miller was named Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Henry's Sweet Miracle Honey & Henry's Stingers, the second company he started. Henry's Sweet Miracle Honey & Henry's Stingers is a unique honey company with products like Grumpy Grandpa—a combination of raw honey, red pepper & garlic—Naughty Nana, a ginger/pepper blend, and Phoebe's Fireball with its chipotle/cinnamon mix.

Then Miller learned that weterinarians at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center commonly use raw honey to treat turtle injuries. When Miller discovered that only one in 4,000 hatchlings survive, his honey company adopted a sea turtle. His donation goes toward the medical care for other sea turtles.

“My adoptive sea turtle is Phantom. He lost an eye from a boat accident and had a horrible infection from a fishing hook stuck in his neck,” Miller says. “Phantom had to have multiple honey treatments to draw out the infection. Now he's been released with a transmitter and I'm going to put a link on henrysstingers.com so kids can see where Phantom is at any time. Funny thing is, we use honey in a completely new way while the sea turtles are using it in one of the most oldest ways possible.”

So remember, entrepreneurs, when you find success—find a cause. It’s good to give back to causes that represent your passion.

Check out this video Miller shot:


How Small Businesses Can Breed Employee Loyalty

As the economy improves, small business owners face a new challenge: employee retention.

According to MetLife’s 9th Annual Study of Employee Benefit Trends, only 44 percent of employees feel a strong loyalty to the small business for which they work. That’s down a significant from 62 percent in 2008.

But wait... the picture gets worse. In fact, 34 percent of small business employees surveyed would like to work for a different employer. What is going on? There are many factors in breeding employee loyalty--and it's not all about money. The MetLife study found a strong tie between employee benefits and employee loyalty.

"The MetLife study is a reality check for smaller employers who may still be viewing their workforce through rose-colored glasses,” says Jeffrey Tulloch, vice president, U.S. Business, MetLife. “Economic recovery will not only present opportunities for employers but also for top performers. One area small businesses may overlook is whether their benefits programs are designed as strategically as they could be. It is not necessarily about spending more, but optimizing offerings to attain three top objectives: employee retention, increased productivity, and cost control.”

MetLife suggests voluntary benefits as an option for small business employers looking for a cost-effective way to increase their offerings. According to the study, about half of employees find it important to have benefits like life, dental, and disability insurance available to them through the workplace even if they have to pay all of the cost themselves.

Beyond traditional healthcare, however, the study found that financial health is also a key to employee retention. Financial concerns can take a toll on productivity and contribute to stress-related ailments. But there is a disconnect in this area between small businesses and their employees. While 77 percent of small business employers do not plan to offer financial/retirement planning seminars within the next 18 months, 75 percent of employees who admitted their productivity was impacted by personal monetary issues would be interested in learning how to address issues that cause financial stress.

"It can be a win-win situation when employers utilize and promote programs that can help employees become more financially secure. Employees can mitigate some of their financial stresses and obtain greater peace of mind, and employers can reap the benefits of a more productive and loyal workforce," says Dr. Ronald S. Leopold, vice president and national medical director, U.S. Business at MetLife. "There is a business value to both a physically and financially healthy employee."

Check out this video for more insights into generating employee loyalty:


Tips to Curb Employee Anxiety in Your Small Business

Anxiety in the workplace.  It’s a growing phenomenon in businesses large and small. Indeed, even solopreneurs are facing issues that can breed anxiety and an upset stomach. A rising unemployment rate, slower job growth, and increasing layoffs at a time when employees were just starting to think there may be better opportunities are driving job security fears.

"This optimism is now being replaced by greater apprehension over job security," says Annie Stevens, managing partner with ClearRock. "Some employers who had growing concerns about how to retain valued workers have now shifted their attention to keeping employees engaged and motivated during a hot, uncertain summer."

With employee loyalty also tanking, what’s a small business owner to do? How do you keep your best and brightest employees on board and create a work atmosphere where employees feel comfortable, secure, optimistic—and productive? ClearRock is offering some sound recommendations for employers looking for ways to ease workplace anxiety and maintain employee engagement. Let’s look at each one in detail.

1. Communicate frequently, openly, and honestly about the state of business.
"This should comprise both good and bad news, including planned layoffs and other cutbacks,” Stevens says. “Employees who have survived past downsizings are especially worried in an environment of higher unemployment.

2. Discover what employees are thinking.
"Use a variety of methods to learn what is going on,” Stevens suggests, “including individual, face-to-face meetings, regular staff meetings, and informal company get-togethers.”

3. Manage by walking around.
"There is no substitute for managers getting out of their offices, walking among workers and talking with them,” Stevens says. “There has been more of a tendency to communicate in recent years by email, memos, and in meetings, rather than finding out first-hand what each employee does, and how to help them do it better.”

4. Recognize and reward accomplishments.
"One of the most common criticisms about managers is they do not recognize and reward individual accomplishments,” Stevens says. “Even in a tough business environment, employers can acknowledge achievements through low-cost tokens of thanks, handwritten notes, and personal emails, instead of with monetary rewards.”

5. Give useful feedback.
"Providing ongoing feedback to employees is one of the best ways to ease anxiety and uncertainty. Feedback should be delivered regularly and not just during performance evaluations,” Stevens says. “It creates more occasions to interface with direct reports and reinforce positive behaviors.”

6. Celebrate individual and group successes.
"Recognition and reward need to be shared collectively as well as acknowledging individual employees,” Stevens says. “Successes are often the result of individual and group efforts.”

7. Involve employees.
"Engage employees in a search for solutions to work-related problems and improving operations,” Stevens says. “This will make them feel part of the decision-making process, which can lead to better financial performance for the organization and employees.”

8. Focus on the long-term as well as the short-term.
"Employees want to know that there will be a future for them and an interest in growing their careers,” Stevens says. “Offer workers a long-term picture about the vision for the company, how they fit into it, and plans for their professional development.”

Should Your Small Business Opt for Self-Insured Group Coverage?

There are pros and cons to self-insured groups. But a new survey highlights misunderstandings about how these groups work that could come back to haunt small businesses.

The Self-Insurance Institute of America defines a self-insured group health plan as one in which the employer assumes the financial risk for providing health care benefits to its employees. In practical terms, the SIIA explains, self-insured employers pay for each out of pocket claim as they are incurred instead of paying a fixed premium to an insurance carrier, which is known as a fully-insured plan.

But here’s a potential downside: Members of a SIG are financially responsible for the workers' compensation claims of all the companies in their group—often for years—not just their own businesses. And 41 percent of small business owners in a recent Employers poll don’t realize that.

"While close and continuous examination of costs is smart business, many small businesses are lured by self-insured groups' promises of lower costs, which unfortunately expose them to increased risk,” says Douglas Dirks, president and CEO of Employers. "It's important that small business decision-makers understand the collective financial risk and liability they inherit should other group members default, leave the group or if the group is forced to close."

With this in mind, it’s important to consider the impact of workers’ compensation insurance when considering a SIG. Upfront costs are, of course, important. But long-term savings through programs like loss control, anti-fraud and return-to-work programs should also be factored into that equation. Employers recommends asking self-insured group administrators nine these nine questions:

1. How well funded is my self-insured group?

2. How many claims have occurred while my company has been a member?

3. What is the expected lifetime cost of each of these claims?

4. What does "joint and several liability" mean to my business?

5. What is my company's exposure if another member of my self-insured group has a claim?

6. Can a claimant sue my company for the full cost of a claim?

7. What liabilities does my company have if I leave my self-insured group?

8. What are the legal requirements of leaving a self-insured group?

9. Will I need to reinsure any costs related to claims that occurred while I was part of the self-insured group?

If the answers to these questions make you uncomfortable, then it may be time to reconsider how you approach your small business insurance needs. Even the SIIA concedes that SIG plans aren’t the best option for every employer:

“Since a self-insured employer assumes the risk for paying the health care claim costs for its employees, it must have the financial resources (cash flow) to meet this obligation, which can be unpredictable,” SIIA explains. “Therefore, small employers and other employers with poor cash flow may find that self-insurance is not a viable option. It should be noted, however, that there are companies with as few as 25 employees that do maintain viable self-insured health plans.”

Check out this video on self-insured group plans and decide for yourself if it's right for your small business:


Teenage Entrepreneur Works to Inspire Youth

Need a little entrepreneurial inspiration? Katalina Pinkney offers plenty.

In many ways, Pinkney is your typical teenage California girl. Typical, that is, if she wasn’t the Chief Executive Officer of a wildly successful skin care product company.

Pinkney founded Tahiti Waheennee. The company produces and wholesales skin care products to hundreds of retailers across the U.S. and in Canada. Her success is no accident. She had a strong entrepreneurial pull to build a company while still in high school—and that determination drove her to success.

“I wanted to build a successful business that creates great products, jobs and ultimately does good things for other people,” says Pinkney. “My generation is learning lessons from watching the older generations and the fallout from the global recession.

"I’m young and at the beginning of my journey in business, but I’m convinced that young people with a dream can succeed and make a difference. There is no rule that says you cannot succeed until you are 30 or 40. Many successful businesses are started by teens, and I’m working on building a global business.”

Listen to her talk! Pinkney got inspired when she was just 16. She was watching the a continual drop of news about families around the world being impacted by layoffs, increasing unemployment rates and other bad economic news. So she set out to build a business that could help people with jobs and in other ways.

In fact, one of first things she did when the company started turning a profit was to throw a holiday party for school children living in a financially distressed area. Pinkney’s reasoning: “I want to help others by inspiring them to visualize and strive for their own goals in life.”

Sheila Routon, marketing manager at Four Seasons, a major U.S. distributor of Pinkney’s products, says she have been amazed by this young entrepreneur since the company started distributing her products in November 2010.

“We see her at national trade shows commanding large audiences of retailers, and we have enjoyed being part of her success,” Routon says. “Her product sales have grown exponentially since we began distributing Tahiti Waheenee. It’s been great to watch Katalina and her business grow.”